Three Steps to Create the Best Exit from Your Job
At the start of the 2019 Australian Open I saw an emotional Andy Murray give a press conference about the effects of his severely damaged right hip:
I can still play to a level, but not a level I am happy playing at. It’s not just that. The pain is too much really. I don’t want to continue playing that way. I think I have tried pretty much everything I could to get it right and that hasn’t worked.
Since the summer of 2017 Murray has had three attempted comebacks, one surgery, and has worked with a coach who specialises in injury recovery. It hasn't worked. He suffers pain doing everyday activities, and accepts that the Australian Open could be the last tournament he plays. As a tennis lover, and fan of Murray, it's sad to see this. He was once in phenomenal physical shape and could run around a court and defend points as well as any player. Having won three grand slams, two Olympic golds, and the Davis Cup he has many reasons to be proud. At 31-years-old he's in the later stages of his playing career. His exit is just a matter of time.
Exiting Your Job
At one point we all will stop working at our current job. It might be hard to imagine, but unless you're immortal then it will happen, and on average people now only stay in one job for 4-5 years. The exit could be for a variety of reasons: medical, a move to a new job or company, a restructure, retirement, or a promotion. It could be entirely your choice, or the last thing you want. It will still happen, and you can find ways to make the exit the best possible under the circumstances. Given that you're likely to change job over 10 times in your career then it makes sense to apply a few tools to help the process along.
There are three main areas to consider:
1. What Replaces Your Current Job
You can consider this by assessing your activities in two ways:
- What adds or drains away your energy you in your current job?
- What is aligned with your career or life goals?
Example of Activity Map
If you love your organisation and industry, but want to staple your manager's hands to one of your office's revolving doors, then perhaps a sideways move in your current company will work out well for you. You'll hopefully have a manager you can work with, and retain all the existing benefits. If you've reached a stage in your life where more flexible working, or less travel, will help your family this could be something you negotiate with your current employer.
However, what you are looking for might mean a change of company. Common reasons include a promotion, more money, a better work culture, or a new location. In these instances it's useful to assess new employers and jobs against the criteria you love in your current job as well as the change you seek. If not, your stay with new employer could be short.
When retiring it can be tempting to consider a life of relaxation which is free from the stress of organisations and deadlines. This could seem like a wonderful alternative to the work life you've experienced, but has hidden risks. UK research has shown that retirement can cause our brain functions to rapidly decline because we don't get the stimulation work provided. This can increase the likelihood of dementia. A study in the US showed that retirees had poorer physical health than those of the same age who worked part time. So finding the appropriate retirement activities which are stimulating and enjoyable can help your mental and physical health. An ex-colleague of mine had always been fascinated in archaeology so when he retired he completed an archaeology degree to turn an interest into his main focus.
2. Whether to Drop or Keep Current Relationships
From the highlight of your job, to the main reason you stay away from work, your colleagues can have a range of effects on you. It's unlikely that you will want to see them all again on a weekly basis, but some people could be valuable support to you after your exit. Work friendships might live on strongly even after you no longer work in the same company. One of my best friends, and most important clients, is an ex-colleague I previously worked with in 2002. Our relationship has only strengthened over the last seventeen years.
To consider which current colleagues you want to stay in contact with you can use a similar approach to a common stakeholder map and view them by their:
Closeness - The warmth or strength of the personal connection you have
Influence - How relevant and important they are to your next job or activities
Example of Colleague Map
Highly influential and close people are natural to maintain, or even strengthen as contacts, and some individuals who are either close to you or influential will be useful to keep. Over time I've tended to try and maintain a connection who I feel a strong rapport with even if we don't have a direct business interest on the basis that at some point it could emerge, and until then it will be enjoyable to stay in touch.
If you are a founder of an organisation then knowing how close to remain to your start-up once you move on can be like walking along tightrope. A complete cutoff could unnerve stakeholders or employees, and yet trying to maintain a strong influence could hamper the replacement executive. It's useful to transition into a mentor/coach or consultant type of role with the executive team where your input is available, but their authority is clear.
If you are not a founder then there could still be a mutual benefit in undertaking specific projects or delivering consultancy services to your current employer once you've moved onto new pastures. This could avoid a damaging knowledge loss or operational disruption to your company, and provide you with some useful work. These relationships can continue for years, although some companies are now trying to avoid a dependence on ex-employees.
3. How You Make the Right Transition
The main considerations for this are:
Is this the standard two weeks of notice for a job in the US, or do you want to shift your current role to part time in preparation for a retirement in two years? If you are moving to a direct competitor then you might be escorted of the site by security as soon as you hand in your notice to minimise the leakage of competitive secrets.
Even in some organisations which have high turnover handovers are poorly managed with the two individuals left to sort it out for themselves while managing other commitments. The right handover helps your replacement start strongly, and allows you to leave without worrying about important issues being forgotten. The handover should include contacts, key activities, tools used, and role metrics. For as much as possible you and your replacement should do things together to ensure they learn more effectively.
Many of the things which you use in your current role will stay the property of your current employer, and there are frequently contractual barriers to taking clients from one company to another. However, there are sometimes items which you can take away with your current employer's blessing. One ex-colleague I know had already registered for a conference and their current employer didn't mind them attending it after they left since no-else was available and interested in doing so. When I left one company I made a list of the software tools I had used in my job, and in one case I re-purchased one at another company.
Do you want to quietly leave without any fuss, or is it important to make a statement or have a big farewell with your colleagues? One CEO I knew toured every site of his company to say goodbye before he retired. He was warmly greeted at each location, and people were grateful of the chance to wish him well. Another colleague wanted as few people to know as possible since the departure was unwelcome and painful. If you have time then you can use your exit to share experiences which you feel are important for the organisation to retain, and there are knowledge management techniques which help this.
Supporting the Exit
Exiting your job can be exciting, worrying, or a big relief. Whichever emotions it evokes in you this is a good time to call on your support network to help you make this step. As a coach I've enabled people to move through the transition by helping them clarify how to make this move, and even to reaffirm it's the right thing to do. Sometimes doubt creeps in at the last moment. Mentors, friends and family can all play a useful role at this time.
About The Author
Alasdair Graham is the founder of Apex Discovery and a coach who helps leaders and businesses grow. You can contact him here or on LinkedIn, and if you found this blog post useful then please share it.
The image of Andy Murray was originally posted to Flickr and is used unaltered under the Creative Commons license 2.0